BBC Radio 4 has announced two special commissions to mark 50 years since the Home Service became Radio 4.
In the year that Adrian Mole also turns 50, Radio 4 is returning to his early years in a new serialisation of his first Secret Diary for its "Book at Bedtime" programme. The character first appeared as ‘Nigel’ on BBC Radio 4 in 1982 and was originally played by the actor Nicholas Barnes.
In late author Sue Townsend's "hilarious and heart-breaking" chronicle of a teenager growing up in the Midlands in the 1980s, Adrian Mole will be read by Harry McEntire. The broadcast will be set in 1981 when Margaret Thatcher is in power, Britain is at war in the Falklands and teenagers are growing up in a world without mobile phones or computer games. While his parents are downstairs, drinking, smoking and arguing about their failing marriage, Adrian is upstairs in his bedroom listening to Abba, reading great works of literature, writing poems, and penning letters to the BBC. Despite the many challenges that life throws at him - including regular beatings from the school bully, unrequited love, raging hormones, a severe case of acne and numerous rejection letters - Adrian soldiers on bravely and wins a place in our hearts with his charming naïveté.
Radio 4 plans to broadcast new serialisations of all the Adrian Mole books in the coming years, "reflecting some of the major social changes of the last fifty years through the satirical prism of this much-loved character", said the broadcaster.
Coming also to Radio 4, journalist Sarah Montague and guests will consider how some of the earliest BBC Reith Lectures look from the perspective of 2017, in a special five-part series. The ideas and individuals explored in the series include Michael Sandel, who examines Bertrand Russell’s inaugural 1948 Reith Lecture series on “Authority and the Individual"; Grayson Perry who revisits Nikolaus Pevsner’s “The Englishness of English Art”; Brian Cox who explores the lectures on “Science and the Common Understanding” delivered by Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist known as the father of the atomic bomb; Professor Anand Menon on Robert Birley’s lectures on “Britain in Europe”; and Professor Angela Stent on George Kennan’s lectures on “Russia, the atom and the West”.
"It's been such a privilege to be involved in this fascinating series. To hear the thinking of the brightest minds from just after the Second World War and then to consider how much or how little has changed since with those of today", Montague said. "No doubt Lord Reith would have loved to hear Professor Michael Sandel engage with Bertrand Russell's idea of a World Government, Professor Brian Cox on Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb. And hear Grayson Perry ruminate on Nicolas Pevsner's view of how the English character is presented in its art. Brilliant minds, rich discussion - perfect radio."
Gwyneth Williams, controller of BBC Radio 4, said: “...’m pleased that the audience is turning to us now in record numbers to make sense of these turbulent times. News and current affairs lies at our core but the whole range of programmes from arts to culture, science, history, politics, drama and comedy is what makes Radio 4 so able to reflect the contemporary world in all its complexity. These commissions in current affairs and the arts reflect that approach, as relevant now as it was fifty years ago.”
Both commissions will air from Monday 25th September.